Sometimes the world needs a superhero. And with Apple slated to release the next iPhone within weeks, now might be one of those times — at least for fans of technology and gadget news. Rumors are swirling about the latest smartphone from Cupertino, and it’s hard to keep up with all of the predictions.
For example, major tech blogs are reporting that a new dock connector is likely, and that Apple will finally support LTE. But a lot of questions remain unanswered: Will the device have an NFC chip? Will it be called the “iPhone 5,” or not? And will Apple release an iPad Mini alongside the iPhone?
One could spend hours scouring news outlets for information, in an attempt to make sense of these rumors – and still come away confused.
Enter the Drunk Hulk – one of of the strongest, most entertaining — and yes, most inebriated — heroes in the world. In 2011, Time Magazine named him as one of the 140 best feeds on Twitter, where he shares his perspective on the world’s top headlines related to technology, politics, entertainment and other topics:
SNOOKI IN LABOR! NEIL ARMSTRONG JUST DIE AND ALL HIS HARD WORK ALREADY CANCEL OUT!
— DRUNK HULK (@DRUNKHULK) August 25, 2012
Having interviewed Drunk Hulk in the past, and in need of some real insightful analysis, I sought him out again to discuss the latest iPhone rumors. Here is the transcript of our interview:
Hi, Drunk Hulk, thanks for joining me again. First things first. If you had a $1 million to bet on what Apple will call the next iPhone, how would you place your bet? Will it be the “iPhone 5,” the “new iPhone,” or something else altogether?
THEY SHOULD NO CALL IT mePHONE PART FIVE! PART FIVE NEVER GOOD! HERE IS SCIENCE TO BACK UP CLAIM! FRIDAY 13TH PART 5 SO BAD THAT JASON NO EVEN IN IT! HARRY POTTER AND ORDER OF PHOENIX! DAVE CLARK FIVE! ERNEST RIDES AGAIN! JOHNNY NUMBER 5! NEXT DIE HARD MOVIE! NO GET DRUNK HULK STARTED ON PARTY OF FIVE!
FOR ONE MILLION DOLLAR! DRUNK HULK PREDICT THEY CALL IT mePHONE 5: FACE OF DEATH!
The next iPhone is rumored to have a different form factor, and a larger screen. With some Android phones sporting huge screens that border on tablet-like dimensions, is this a step in the right direction for Apple?
BIGGER SCREEN IS BETTER! HOW DRUNK HULK SUPPOSE KNOW YOU IMPORTANT AT COFFEE SHOP UNLESS YOU HAVE BIG SCREEN ON YOU mePHONE 5: FULLY LOADED?!
Apple has been promoting Siri heavily. Many iPhone owners, however, have complained that the voice-activated assistant has failed to deliver on its promise. Will the next iPhone include a more useful version of Siri?
FRANKLY! CONSIDERING SHE TOM CRUISE DAUGHTER! AND CRAZY RICH! DRUNK HULK SURPRISE SIRI WORK AT ALL! ESPECIALLY FOR mePHONE 5: DREAM CHILD!
The next iPhone will replace Google Maps with a new default mapping application, called Maps. Do you think it will be a suitable replacement for Google Maps, and will you trust it to get you home after a few drinks?
WOW! APPLE REALLY WENT OLD SCHOOL! DRUNK HULK REMEMBER MAPS! YOU SEE KIDS! BEFORE THERE WAS GOOGLE MAPS! THERE WAS MAPS! MAPS WAS LARGE SHEET OF PAPER THAT ONCE UNFOLD WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO REFOLD! DRUNK HULK GUESS HIPSTERS WILL LOVE MAPS! BECAUSE THEY WERE NEVER COOL TO BEGIN WITH! DRUNK HULK CAN NO WAIT TO USE MAPS ON mePHONE 5: FINAL FRONTIER!
Another rumor making the rounds is that the next iPhone will support Near Field Communication (NFC). If this materializes, will it spur a new era of innovation around mobile payments?
NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATION? WHAT ABOUT IF DRUNK HULK WANT COMMUNICATE WITH SOMEONE ON FAR FIELD? THIS SEEM LIKE TERRIBLE MISTAKE! IF IT NEAR FIELD! DRUNK HULK CAN WALK OVER AND TALK IN PERSON! DRUNK HULK MORE WORRY ABOUT COMMUNICATING WITH GUY IN FAR FIELD!
HEY APPLE! YOU REALLY DROP BALL ON mePHONE 5: FIELDS OF TERROR!
Apple might sell more than 50 million new iPhones over the holiday quarter, and over 250 million units over the device’s lifetime. With demand for the next iPhone expected to be so heavy, will you be camping out overnight to buy one as soon as it becomes available?
LAST TIME DRUNK HULK CAMP OUT ALL NIGHT FOR SOMETHING AMAZING! DRUNK HULK DISCOVER JAR JAR BINKS! SO UNLESS DRUNK HULK HAPPEN TO PASS OUT IN FRONT OF APPLE STORE NIGHT BEFORE! DRUNK HULK WILL NOT BE CAMPING OUT FOR mePHONE 5: NEW BEGINNING!
While we’re on the subject of Apple, let’s talk about technology patents. Apple is involved in patent litigation with Samsung, Motorola, and others. And with other innovative technology giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google devoting significant resources to patent disputes, it’s time to ask: Are technology patents promoting, or inhibiting, innovation?
DRUNK HULK NO EXPERT! BUT THIS REMIND DRUNK HULK OF TIME WHEN DRUNK HULK GO ON TWTTER! AND THEN THERE HUNDRED OTHER HULKS ON TWITTER! AND DRUNK HULK SAY, “HEY! DRUNK HULK FIRST! GIVE DRUNK HULK BILLION DOLLAR!” AND THEY LAUGH AT DRUNK HULK IN 140 CHARACTER OR LESS!
Hulk, thanks again for your time and insights.
YOU MOST WELCOME! CAN NO WAIT FOR mePHONE 5: FIGHT TO FINISH!
So there you have it — analysis of the latest Apple rumors from the Drunk Hulk (Who, by the way, is the creation of Christian A. Dumais, a writer whose work I highly recommend; you should also check out his TEDxWroclaw talk). As Drunk Hulk infers above, fifth-generation movie titles are rarely any good. With all the rumored changes to the fifth-generation iPhone, it remains to be seen whether the device suffers the same fate.
What do you think about the Drunk Hulk’s assessment of the issues above? Let me know with a comment below!
Few topics arouse as much fierce debate as Klout, the company which claims to provide a standard measure for individuals’ online influence. Perhaps politics. Or religion. But unlike debates about the latter two topics, which often center around larger world views regarding morality, economics, and the role of institutions, Klout is a different animal.
Klout is personal. It’s a number. Right next to your face. Scoring your supposed value.
This little number bothers a great number of people, either because it (bizarrely) impacts their sense of self-worth, or because it invokes a competitive urge to outrank friends and colleagues. Naturally, this leads detractors to criticize Klout’s scoring algorithm, its mechanism for correlating topics with individuals, and its relevance as a gauge for real world influence.
Much has been written about these deficiencies, but my favorite assessment is by Jeff Moriarty, who writes, “The problem is that social influence is a hideously tricky thing to measure.” Jeff then goes on to describe how, in the past, Klout pegged him as an expert on terrorism. Now, I don’t know Jeff very well. But I’ve met him several times, and from what I can tell, he’s a smart, hardworking guy who is very involved with a lot of projects that benefit the Phoenix community. He hardly seems like a terrorist, and as his blog post explains, he’s obviously not one — despite what Klout may have purported.
And like Jeff, Klout thinks that I’m influential on topics that aren’t among my areas of expertise. They include: Walmart (a store I visit maybe 1-2 times per year), Spain (a place I’ve never been), and Tim Tebow (a person who I tweet about only occasionally, in order to goad a friend of mine into a reaction). Keep these three topics in mind, because I’ll return to them in a moment. But suffice it to say that I know little about each one.
However, despite Klout’s struggles, it’s not time to write off its value.
Case in point: Michael Arrington, who mocked Klout in a past blog post, titled, “My Detailed Thoughts On Klout.” The post contained exactly one word, meant to summarize all the gnashing of teeth over Klout scores and topics: “Why?” But even a skeptic such as Arrington has changed his tune.
Earlier this month, Arrington posted an about-face regarding Klout. Extolling Klout’s value, Arrington announced that his CrunchFund venture capital firm had invested in the service. Arrington writes:
“They’ve relaunched the product and a lot of the tricks that people used to game the system are gone… Klout will have a constant, ongoing battle in fighting gaming. But that’s ok. Google is in a constant fight defending the integrity of PageRank, too. And yet we find it interesting. Klout is very much like a PageRank for people and things. And it can be much more useful than just helping companies hand out perks.
First, there’s a lot of data being collected and processed by Klout. A staggering amount of data about people and things from a wide variety of social services.”
So you see, Klout’s just not that into you.
And really, it never was. To expand on Arrington’s point, Klout’s not into serving you, it’s into serving the data about you to companies that can use it for all sorts of purposes, ranging from helping brands target people who like to converse about specific topics, to potentially serving as a data source for other forms of advertising.
Klout’s business model shouldn’t — and probably doesn’t — come as a surprise to people who understand the value of data for targeting ads to consumers. So big deal, right? Klout’s like a lot of other businesses that offer data for customer segmentation?
Kind of, but it’s different in one important way. Klout’s data isn’t unique as a data source for demographic information. It’s more valuable a source of information about: (1) The willingness of specific individuals to spread the word about specific topics, and (2) Whether their viewpoints are perceived as insightful when they do spread the word. So Klout’s data is less about who people are, and more about what topics they’re willing to engage around.
Think about the marketing funnel. Klout’s data helps out with awareness initiatives at the top of the funnel (as do Facebook ads), by helping brands target people (I won’t call them influencers, necessarily) who will spread these brand messages via social media channels. By comparison, Google AdWords is geared toward helping companies with sales closures at the bottom of the funnel.
But I digress, so let’s get back to the subject of whether Klout has value (Hint: it does).
Klout scores are yet another valuable data point for digital marketing and brand managers, especially in light of today’s resource constraints.
Unemployment in the United States is currently north of 8%, and the underemployment rate, defined by the Wall Street Journal as “people who want to work but haven’t looked in the last four weeks because they figured no jobs were available and those working part-time gigs but would prefer full-time positions,” is above 15%.
What does this have to do with Klout? Well, despite record profits for many large corporations, it’s clear that a lot of the jobs shed by companies during the recent Great Recession aren’t coming back — at least not in the near future. And thus, marketers today are having to do more with less. Fewer people, but with more powerful tools and technologies.
The data from these technologies, of which Klout is just one — think of data from CRM systems, marketing automation systems, social media monitoring systems, etc., as others — is being aggregated by marketing managers in order to analyze audiences and plan campaigns. So that’s just it: Klout is one of many data points used by marketers today to help them conduct efficient audience analyses, at a time when they can’t rely on a sizable team to do this kind of work. That’s why Klout scores are now available in Radian6, for example. It provides additional context for data analysts tasked with analyzing online conversations about brands.
But this doesn’t excuse Klout’s inaccuracies, right? Don’t incorrect topic/person correlations and influence scoring actually make it harder for marketers?
It makes the data imperfect, yes. But imperfect is not the same thing as “not valuable.” Consider the data on website traffic from sources such as Alexa, Compete, Doubleclick and Google Trends. It’s widely understood that these tools provide inaccurate data that may vary widely from what a website manager will see in Google Analytics. And yet, as Kristi Hines writes on the KISSmetrics blog, “Are these sites 100% accurate? No, they’re not. But they all offer some good data that you can use for competitor research.”
This takeaway applies to Klout. It may not perfectly quantify topical influence for each individual, but it indicates an individual’s willingness to talk about a subject. And this signal of willingness is important for marketing managers.
This, in turn, brings me back to the three topics that I mentioned above: Walmart, Spain and Tim Tebow. Am I, as Klout has posited, an influencer on any of these topics? No, not at all. But have I demonstrated a willingness to discuss them online? Yes, I have.
Regarding Walmart, I do sometimes refer to it on Twitter as the future epicenter of the zombie apocalypse (I don’t hold it in high esteem). I also wrote a blog post titled, “Facebook is Walmart, and We Love Boutiques,” in which I examine negative reactions to Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram. Similarly, on Twitter, I have praised Spain’s Olympic basketball team as a worthy competitor to the U.S. team. Lastly, during NFL season, I frequently link to stories about Tim Tebow’s successes, but in a playful way to torment a friend who despises Tebow.
So clearly, Klout has picked up on something here. It has correctly identified some level of interest, on my part, in these topics.
But what Klout is missing, for now, is context.
Klout sees that I have interest in Walmart, but it lacks an appreciation of my mindset. It has also identified some interest in Spain, albeit lacking the specificity that my interest is only related to its basketball prowess. Finally, Klout knows that I’m willing to link to articles about Tim Tebow, but it misses my associated attempts at humor.
Imagine if (or rather, when) Klout closes the context gap. The value of its data will grow exponentially. And there is good reason to think Klout may eventually get there, because the team behind the tool is continually refining it. As Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily writes about Klout’s latest re-tooling:
“Klout does something very impressive if you step back and think about it. A relatively small team of people crunch 12 billion points of data everyday across every open, active Twitter profile they can get their data-grubbing paws onto, some 100 million profiles. That’s equivalent to one-third of the US population. And that challenge only grows as more people are creating more data every single day. The fact that Klout can come close to making sense of all that should be considered a coup.
The new version is taking into account real world influence — through a combination of bringing in 12 times more data points everyday, and taking into account things like Wikipedia pages and weighting LinkedIn profile data higher.”
The takeaway here is that Klout is surfacing a set of signals from an enormous amount of information, and it’s getting better by broadening its pool of data. As “real world” sources — and potentially contextual cues — become integrated with Klout’s existing data sources, its end product increases in value.
Value. For brands. Not necessarily for you.
Klout, then, is another example of the increasingly understood (and increasingly trite) rule that “If You’re Not Paying For It, You Become The Product.” Klout is just a set of data points, one set among a broad array of data points that marketing managers are using — that they need to use — in light of the resource shortages that are plaguing organizations of all sizes. The team behind the service is continuing to refine it, and additional rounds of funding from investors such as CrunchFund will only provide the Klout team with the resources necessary to make it more valuable.
But not necessarily for individuals. Because, despite the big, bold numbers next to our faces, and the perks that companies are awarding us based on them, it’s really not about us.
Thus, you may hate Klout. But as Joe Fernandez, the CEO of Klout, says, “At least we’re relevant.” Because Klout is. Maybe just not for you.
I’m pleasantly surprised to read the news that Dalton Caldwell’s audacious proposal for a user-funded, ad-free alternative to Twitter has reached its funding goal. A week ago, it didn’t look like Caldwell would fetch the minimum target of $500,000 worth funding that he’d set as a requirement for launching — or rather pivoting — App.net. But he did, and it’s an achievement with potentially significant ramifications.
Why is App.net so important? Simply put, it reflects a growing frustration with the insidious nature of advertisements on social networks. While many people are now able to tune out traditional banner and sidebar advertisements, social ads are constantly evolving. And as social networks like Facebook, Twitter and even Tumblr struggle to find viable business models and appease investors, so-called in-stream advertisements are becomingly increasingly common.
Evidence suggests that they’re working, which will only embolden those charged with generating revenue for social networks.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with in-stream ads that enhance, or at least don’t worsen, my overall user experience on a platform. My experience as a user (and yes, I’m aware that if I’m not paying for something, then I’m its product) is especially important to me as I spend more and more time accessing social networks — and the Internet in general — on mobile devices. In-stream ads need to be subtle on small screens in order to avoid becoming disruptive.
In my experience, however, subtlety is fading away (see the screen shot from Facebook’s iOS app). Which sucks. And so it’s time for a new approach, one in which advertisements aren’t crammed into every nook and cranny of screens both small and large. It’s time for social networking leaders to think different.
And that’s where App.net comes in, as a paid service that puts the interests of users first. Caldwell’s idea may or may not succeed — and some smart people are on the record in saying that it’s likely to fail — but I’m still hopeful. And thus, I’ve put my money where my mouth is, by backing the App.net project as part of its Member Tier.
I’m helping to fund App.net, in hopes that becomes a great service. But more importantly, I’m funding an idea, one that is best expressed in the words of former Facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher: “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”
Yes, it certainly does. For all of us.
While in-stream advertisements won’t (and shouldn’t) go away entirely, they need to remain minimally obtrusive. But within the streams of my social networking apps, they’re trending in the opposite direction. So perhaps there’s a place for App.net’s user-funded business model.
I certainly hope so. But what about you?